To the Editor:
I would like to help address some of the questions and concerns about the Carolina Together Testing Program, alleviate some of those concerns and help manage expectations in the process.
First, I want to make it very clear that while testing is vital to helping limit the spread of the virus, vaccinations and masks are the most effective tools we have to accomplish our No. 1 goal: keeping ourselves, our families, our loved ones and our community safe.
Thanks to all of you who are taking these important steps to help us achieve that goal. Our community is taking the priority of safety very seriously, and I am so thrilled we are continuing to support each other.
While we have ample resources and staff to support the testing program, we must prioritize our resources where they are needed most and where they will make the biggest impact, which is among the asymptomatic unvaccinated population.
For those who are unvaccinated, asymptomatic testing is essential, which is why we have made it a requirement for students, faculty and staff who haven’t attested to receiving the vaccination. Right now, if a vaccinated person is asymptomatic and not considered a close contact to a positive case, we don’t recommend testing more than once a week. This follows guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also recommends fully vaccinated people refrain from routine screening tests.
One of the biggest concerns we’ve heard about the testing program is regarding the wait time. Like many customer-facing operations, reservations are given priority over walk-ins, so please make an appointment through HallPass to help cut down on wait times. If you choose to walk up, the line moves quickly, and wait times typically do not exceed 10 minutes during our peak times, which are the class change periods. Very often there is no wait. I know because I help monitor wait times myself. Monday mornings are typically one of our busiest times, as are the high-volume times during class changes and lunch.
As for timing on test results, the UNC COVID Surveillance Lab processes all tests done through the program and has a turnaround time much shorter than most commercial labs. Our goal is to have results within 24-48 hours, but recently we have been able to deliver results much quicker than that. In comparison, most commercial labs can take up to three days to deliver results.
In the last eight months, we’ve processed 200,000 tests. We also set a record for number of tests at the Carolina Union Carolina Together Testing Center in one day, conducting more than 2,000 tests on Monday, Aug. 30, and over 6,500 tests the week of Aug. 23.
I want to commend our students, faculty and staff for adapting and adjusting throughout the pandemic and for staying focused on our main priority: maintaining the overall health and safety of the entire Carolina community.
Dr. Amir Barzin
Carolina Together Testing Program Director and Lead Physician
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